The Internet and Democratization of the Media
When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “Global Village” in the 1960s, he predicted an electronically interdependent world that would trend away from individualism and toward a new form of tribalism. People, he thought, would move toward homogeneous world-views because of the commonality of media available in real time. Geographic divisions and social boundaries would be reduced during a retribalization caused by digitally shared experiences. Even though he wrote long before the internet became a global force, he was remarkably prescient regarding the direction the world would take in light of trends that were already evident during his time.
The internet has not only revolutionized how traditional print and broadcast media are presented, but it has created entirely new forms of media, many of which are readily available to anyone with a little bit of time and patience. Vlogs, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, and social networks have taken their place alongside conventional media outlets. As they did, the line between these new, more democratic forms of media and the “old media” have blurred, with virtually every news source of consequence, not to mention nearly every politician, participating in the new media on a regular basis.
The blending of old and new media has made news reporting nearly instantaneous. Cell phone audio and video, Skype interviews, and local reports posted on social media are immediately picked up by major network and cable news outlets. To keep up with the internet, many newspapers and magazines reduced or even eliminated their physical circulation and began relying more heavily on online subscriptions and advertisements.
Following the mass consolidation of ownership of for-profit news outlets brought about by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the internet came to provide the public with a forum for analyzing any topic. For better or worse, the internet gives virtually everyone a platform to express opinions, commentary, and criticism.
This open participation in the media through the internet is sometimes referred to as media democracy. Media democracy takes place when citizens act as a check on traditional news sources and government institutions by openly and publicly expressing their criticisms, opinions, and research. As people share their ideas and investigate the claims of both politicians and old media actors, media sources are forced to respond or lose credibility.
In many respects, we are witnessing the expansion of the fourth estate to include almost everyone.
- Have you ever posted something on Social Media that you thought of as news? What made you do so?
- When you’re video recording, do you think your recording might change the world?
- How do you determine the accuracy of information you see on the internet? What distinguishes “good” from “bad” news for you?
- Do you think the advent of “citizen journalism” has been generally positive? What are some concrete examples in which you think it has been helpful, and some examples where you think it has been harmful?
- Are there times when it would be better not to know things?
This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense Government eBook. Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for use by students and teachers. Click Here to download the Common Sense Government materials.
1, April 2018, Image of News via computer [Digital image]. Retrieved from <google.com>